The owners of Empire House ask Austin Maynard Architects to transform their modest, inter-war style bungalow in an amazing location into a longterm family home that catches the sun in Canberra, Australia. They are well-traveled professionals with fantastic and diverse tastes. The result of this 2019 project is a comfortable family home with two added pavilions and contemporary details.
The two new pavilions are located adjacent to the existing house. These pavilions also place the inhabitants in a pretty, established garden. The aim is to retain more existing characters of the house site and avoid adding a dominant and unsympathetic addition or common trend of knocking down.
In order to have a conversation with the original building and create sunny spaces, the architect creates a corridor straight through the house and clear the site lines to allow still spaces and activity zones. The exterior is also celebrated and the outdoors are opened to create a discussion between the new and the old and giving clarity.
The original hearth and fireplace in the living room are retained, together with the skirting, timber picture rail, windows, and light fittings. The kitchen is relocated and the sleeping zone, a separate living, or pavilions are constructed. A pavilion is a new living addition in the garden that can maximize passive solar gain, connected to the house via a corridor ‘link’.
A large north-facing roof window is protected by operable louvres and it spans across the pavilion. A similar approach of addition is the master bedroom pavilion where it can be accessed via a link. The pavilion is visible to the street, so respecting the existing house character is important but also creates a distinctly contemporary piece of architecture. The architect responds to the materiality of the existing house with the white shingle form that placed on a datum of red brick.
The white metal shingles are crafted in one hand-finished and hand fixed with mathematical precision, the main feature that distinguishes this house from others. A relationship, a language and a discussion between the two eras can be created through the material and making it incredibly transparent at the same time. The very refined details come from materials, especially the Blackbutt timber lining.
This house has a carport that serves as an outdoor space to inhabit by humans, not a house space that is dedicated to a machine entirely. The house large garden can reduce heat sink in the area and also increase the permeability of the site while the passive solar principals are maximized by the design. All works in this project can maximize available daylight and optimize passive solar gain in winter.
All house windows are double-glazed. The mechanical heating and cooling can be reduced with active management of shade and passive ventilation. The large water tanks are buried within the garden and all roof water is captured and reused to water the garden and flush the toilet. The real sustainability of this project comes from working and saving with the original build.
Empire House, Canberra
Photographer: Derek Swalwell